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This is My Helping Me


Travelling is a great way to test even the most patient person's patience, and I am, by far, not the most patient person.

Yet, I've been working on that detail of my personality. I can't say I'm becoming more patient, but, who knows, I might be. Or what I'm experiencing is a New Year's enthusiasm for all things new and shiny, including a new and shiny me.

In no order other than "this is how I recalled them," things I've found to be helping me:

1. Experience

For traveling, at least, experience helps a lot in being patient.

When you travel a lot, you know where the rough edges are, and you find ways to cope. Flights are always going to be late, cancelled, delayed, longer, something other than perfect. Every flight will have That One Person, the asshole, the jerk, the stinky one, the drunk one, the American™. The wifi won't work. The person in the seat next to you will take up 6" of your seat, or manspread into your space. The aisle passenger will roll her eyes when you want to use the lavatory for the fourth time on this four hour flight. The plane was changed and you are in the middle seat. The passenger in front of you drops his seat back into your computer, breaking the display off the base.

Experience provides options. Experience helps you find the quiet spots in the terminal to do pushups. Experience means you travel enough that you know where the Club is at hub airports, and have a favorite spot at many of them. Experience gives you the confidence to say no to other passenger's requests that you move forward, give up the seat you paid extra for, or take the window seat. Experience helps you smile when you want to scream, because you understand the stress that parent is in when trying to wrangle two suitcases and the three year old who is crying. Experience means you talk to the passengers next to you, if even briefly, to compliment their backpack, ask about the stickers on their passport, or offer to help place their bags.

Experience means you accept this is what travel is: rough edges and all, it is pretty damn amazing.

2. The Happiness Lab

I started listening to The Happiness Lab podcast with Dr. Laurie Santos (you have to have that whole thing, including the "with me, Dr. Laurie Santos," when you hear "the Happiness Lab"). "Our brains are constantly telling us how to be happy, but what if our brains are wrong?" The podcast is wonderful. If one is to take away only one lesson from the podcast, is that happiness, like everything else in this life worth having takes effort.

There are a lot of Stoic teachings in the podcast episodes. Many of the lessons and commentary in the series have studies I've already heard of, some I've even applied. Doesn't matter. We all need these reminders.

I very much enjoy Dr. Santos' enthusiasm. I signed up for her Yale class on Coursera The Science of Well-Being. I am doing this. It's been great.

3. Having a purpose

I've been telling many people about my current project, codenamed Tiamat. When things go pear-shaped, I deal with the bottom half as best I can, then set aside the worries and stresses, and focus on Tiamat. Being able to say, "This sucks, but it doesn't matter," helps a lot when needing to be patient with crap.

4. Nonconfabulation

This one is particularly helpful for me. Don't read too much into that statement, it would be particularly helpful for anyone.

When we hear a piece of news, we create stories in our heads to match this new piece of information to what we already know. Many, many, many times, we make up a story that fits our world view, and it is completely full of shit. That process of making up shit to fit our own storylines is called "confabulation." Best not to do it. Far far far better is to accept actual reality, not the crap we just made up with incomplete data.

Best thing to do after making up a story is asking, "Is it true?" followed by, "Are you sure?"

I'd venture to guess close to 100% of the time, the answer is no for most people. The correct answer is more likely, "I don't know." So, stop assuming the worst, and go find more data / information before continuing.

5. Books

Last year was a Year of Non-Fiction for me. I managed to read about 60% non-fiction, instead of my usual 3% non-fiction for the year (a number I made up based on some evidence, but not accurately calculated). The higher non-fiction count was the result of deliberate choice. I had commented to Jonathan about a book I had read, that I was disappointed in it: it had no moral, no real character arc, no lesson to learn. Jonathan had asked me what I learned from most books I read, weren't they as mindless consuming as his watching youtube all day? The question is valid, and my response was to read non-fiction books until I had stalled and had to binge on fiction. The realization that history books are exactly what I like (as in, "a story"), definitely shaped which non-fiction books I picked up.

Reading takes me into a state a flow. Listening to audiobooks doesn't achieve that flow state, but reading does. I love that state feeling.

I just need to watch out for when books become a way to escape. Then it's back to addressing the issues at hand.

So, yeah, my patience, still not a thing of beauty. I'm working on it. I'm doing better. Let this be a note to future self, "I gotchu."

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